Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Family Project

For quite some time, our family has been wanting to replace our dining room carpet and kitchen linoleum with a laminate flooring. This past month, we were able to start on the project and all that is left now is some of the trim work.

The first thing that needed to be done was to tear up all the old flooring . . .


Ryan worked on removing the carpet . . .


And Mom worked on removing the linoleum . . .


After the linoleum was removed, Mom, Leah and I went along with scrapers to scrap up the bits that were still attached to the concrete. That was a job! There were some places where the glue held quite tight! Once all this was done, Dad and Ryan broke out the tile that was in front of our old front door (we do not use it anymore.) That was their workout for the day. :) They used hammers and pry bars and got the tile up fairly quickly, but it was a bit tiring for them!

Ryan scooping up the broken tile - it seemed strange to have the wheelbarrow sitting in our dining room! :)

Once all of the old flooring was removed, we checked the levelness of the floor and found one large area that had a significant dip in it which needed to be filled with some type of leveling component. Leah did some research online and figured out what would be best to use, and then she, Dad and Ryan got it all leveled off . . .


By this time, we were all eager to start laying the flooring! We first had to put down in intervals a strip of underlayment and then some of the flooring. The flooring pieces were tongue and groove so they snapped together. The type of flooring that we got has six different designed panels, so I chose the order to use the pieces and then Dad and Leah snapped them in.

Putting down the underlayment

Vacuuming the floor before laying the next row of 'boards'

Dad and Leah snapping in the next row

Mom helping to measure the next row of underlayment

Leah marking where it needed to be cut

Me after attaching the two underlayment strips together

Ryan and Leah (she's behind him) putting down more underlayment

We had a wonderful time working on this project together, though there were several times when we had to stop and think to try to figure out how to figure out a difficulty. :) Having a house that is not square made the project interesting! Once the flooring was all in, we were eager to put the furniture back in and get it all arranged. We love how it looks!

This photo is taken from the living room facing towards the pantry - the kitchen is on the left and the dining room on the right with the entry way to the right of the pantry door.

Inside the pantry

The dining room

Looking down the length of the kitchen and dining room

It was so enjoyable working on this project together as a family, and I know that I learned a great deal through it!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Father-Daughter Outing

This afternoon, Daddy took Leah and I out to Ryan's place for several hours - what a special and wonderful time we had together! The day was beautiful with the sun shining and temperatures in the lower 50's (which was much different than the -17 degree windchill and below zero temperatures of a week and a half ago!)

Dad

Dad and Leah were walking towards me, but right when I was going to take the photo, Dad turned around! In this photo, Leah was trying to turn him to face the camera. It was hilarious listening to the two of them! :)


Me

Leah found this interesting moss covered log - the color combinations were striking!

We walked a bit in the woods, and then Leah and I went down the side of a ravine at the back of Ryan's property. It was SO muddy, though, that we more slid down than walked down! There is a little creek at the bottom of it that is just beautiful! We had a marvelous time down there exploring and taking photos.

This photo was taken from the bottom of the ravine looking up to where Dad was at the top.
Leah
This big old tree had fallen across the creek, and we walked part way across it - the moss was bit slippery, though!

We then walked down to the creek bank, and at one point, the ground that Leah was standing on ended up only being frozen on the top - once the top layer of ice broke, she sunk down about 6 inches into the mud!

I have to say, it was rather funny, and both she and I were laughing so hard which made it even more difficult for her to get out!


My reaction :) Not necessarily because of her predicament, but how she was responding to it! She was rather entertaining!

Once Leah was free of the mud, we explored the creek a bit more and looked for animal tracks, though the only ones we saw were deer. [Edited to add: Leah just told me that she also saw some squirrel and opossum tracks. :)]

Me down in the ravine

Leah walking down the creek underneath the log that we had walked on earlier

The creek bed is all rocks so what little water is in it is crystal clear

Before long, using tree limbs and roots to pull us back up the very slippery ravine "wall", we joined Dad at the top and then headed back out of the woods . . .

Dad

Leah

Dad and I

Leah looking at a sparrow

Dad and I walking along the tree line

We walked a bit more in the woods further up Ryan's property and chased up several turkeys. I was in the lead at the time, and a gobbler took off from only about 5 or 6 yards in front of me! That was neat to see him! We could also hear several more turkeys moving through the brush, and every once in awhile caught a glimpse of them as they ran away.

After that, we walked over to Ryan's pond. There is also a small "pond" made from some of the runoff and there are cattails in that . . .



Leah took the above photo of me taking a photo of this . . .


Dad looking at the pond (the water is a little dirty looking due to the big rain we had had)

Dad and Leah standing up on the dam

The only photo of all three of us :)

Once leaving the pond, we walked back up to the truck to head home. After we were partway home, Dad asked us if we would like to stop down by the Missouri River which was met with an enthusiastic "Yes!" (On the way to Ryan's place, there is a small road that leads down to the river.)


The river was rather full and was filled with quite a bit of debris and small ice chunks. There was no walking along the bank this time! Even if the river was not so high, the banks would have been way too muddy to even think of trying to walk on them.


Dad entertained us by skipping rocks on the water - he is quite good at it! We enjoyed our time down at the river, but before long it was time to head home.

On a little farm pond that is next to a gravel road that our road turns off of, there were so many Canada Geese! Dad stopped so Leah and I could look at them through the binoculars to see if there were any Cackling Geese in with them (a smaller subspecies of Canada Geese). We were able to see at least two of them . . .



Thus concluded our very special and fun time together!

Friday, December 26, 2008

It's Blooming!

A few days ago the bud on my amaryllis began to slowly open . . .


Little by little the petals unfolded . . .


Until it had fully bloomed . . .


And today another flower is beginning to open . . .


It has been such a pleasure to have these beautiful flowers blooming when it is so dreary outside! It has also been amazing to watch the dry and "lifeless" bulb grow and become a flowering plant. Even in something as 'small' as this is the power and wisdom of the Lord seen!

"Then God said, 'Let the earth sprout vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them'; and it was so . . ." (Genesis 1:11)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mending a Rug

Our family is one that if something breaks, we generally try to fix it (note the "try" - we are not always successful! :) before buying a replacement. Such is the case with a rug that we have had for who knows how many years. This particular rug is made of 'cords' that are wrapped around in an oval and then sewn together. Several years ago some of the strips began falling apart so we resewed them, and they have held together rather well since then. But over the past few months, many more of the seams began separating until it came to the point that it needed to be repaired! Yesterday Leah and I worked for quite some time sewing it up using heavy duty thread. After several hours of labor and a few sore fingers later, the rug is as good as new again (or close to that :) and is back in use in our entry way. Hopefully it will hold together for awhile now! :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bread Recipe . . .

*Edited to add 3/5/12 - Ashley and I tried making this recipe using her Kitchen Aid mixer instead of a bread machine, and we made it following the bread machine directions . . . layering the ingredients in the same order, mixing and then kneading for the same lengths of time, letting it rise for the same lengths of time, etc. . . . and the bread turned out beautifully!


A few of you had asked if I would share my bread recipe which I am happy to do! Since it is a bread machine recipe, I will give those instructions first, and then will attempt to ‘translate’ those for bread made completely by hand. The amount of the ingredients is a bit unique, but these amounts seem to produce the best bread. I apologize in advance that it is a bit confusing!

--1 cup warm water (I use it hot from the tap)

--A tad under ¼ cup honey
--1
egg
--3 heaping cups of freshly ground whole wheat flour (very scientific, isn't it? :) I would guess it is probably 3-4 extra Tbsp. Just check your dough part way through the kneading process and add more flour or water as needed. [we use Prairie Gold hard white spring wheat])
--3 Tbsp. dry milk powder
--1 tsp. salt

--2 Tbsp. butter (very soft; and divided into 2 pieces)
--1 ½ tsp. yeast (we use SAF-instant yeast)


*Note: Make sure all your ingredients (save for the water :) are at room temperature before beginning.

For making bread in a bread machine, you would add the ingredients in the order listed (or as according to your bread machine manual), set your machine to the dough only cycle (unless you would like the machine to bake the bread too). Our machine preheats before beginning the kneading process so the ingredients are warm at the beginning plus the air temperature during rising is warm also. The machine first mixes and then kneads the dough for 21 minutes** and then goes through two risings and one spin down. The first rising is 45 minutes and the second is 22 minutes. Once the dough is finished rising, pull it out (the dough will be slightly sticky), roll it out into a rectangle on a lightly floured surface and then roll up and seal the seam and edges by pinching the dough together. Do a final shaping with your hands and then place the dough in a greased bread pan (the pan I use is smaller than the traditional size and is approximately 8 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2 inches). Let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or so (or until doubled). Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes. Enjoy!

**Hint: When your machine is kneading the dough, check it to see if it needs more water or flour. Towards the end of the kneading cycle, the dough should be pretty much in one lump with a glossy sheen (I am not sure how best to describe it.) It took me some trial and error before I began to know when it needed more flour or water, so if your first attempt does not turn out the best, try again! :)


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If you have a heavy duty mixer that can knead bread dough (like a Bosch), you could probably use that in place of the bread machine and add all the ingredients together in the order listed. Mix well; then knead until smooth and elastic.

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Since I use the bread machine to mix the ingredients, I am not sure how this would ‘translate’ for making bread entirely by hand, but I would guess it would be something like this:

Combine water, yeast and honey in a bowl and let stand for approximately 10 minutes. In a separate bowl, stir together dry ingredients (save for one cup of the flour) and add to liquid ingredients; add butter. Stir together well, and then gradually add remaining flour. Knead for 8-10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the opposite side. Cover and
let rise in a warm place until doubled (sometimes if our house is cool, I will turn our oven on to 170 degrees for a minute or so – just until it is warm inside – turn it off, and then put the dough in the oven.) Punch dough down, place back into the greased bowl and let rise again until doubled. Punch dough down, roll out into a rectangle, and then roll up and pinch together the ends and the seam. Place in a greased baking pan (the pan I use is smaller than the traditional size and is approximately 8 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2 inches), let rise approximately 45 minutes or so (or until doubled). Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 28 minutes. Enjoy! [Having never tried this ‘rendition’, I have to say that I have no idea whether it would be successful or not, but it might be worth a try!]

Mmm . . . toasted homemade bread with apple butter

Since I began using the bread machine, I discovered one of the problems in my earlier ‘by-hand’ bread baking was adding too much flour. When kneading by hand, the dough would always stick to my hands so I would keep adding more flour throughout the kneading process. This prevented the dough from being terribly sticky, but it also made a heavier and drier loaf. The dough that comes out of the bread machine is much different in texture than what I had made by hand (and noticeably more sticky :) but it surely makes a light loaf! So if you are kneading bread by hand, it is best to try to use as little extra flour as possible. Perhaps try oiling the counter and your hands during kneading. I have also heard it suggested to knead on a wooden bread board as this helps with the sticking. Another option is to flour your hands, but this still adds more flour to the dough . . . especially if one keeps re-flouring their hands (like I tend to do :)!

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With all that, I would like to say that I still classify myself as a ‘novice’ bread baker . . . if any of you have any suggestions, please feel free to share as they would be more than welcome! With bread baking, there is always more to learn. :) Have fun making bread!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Looking Through Photos . . .

This afternoon, after sewing lessons were finished for the day (which went very well, by the way :), I was going through my photo files and deleting ones that we did not need anymore. While doing that, I came across a few photos that Ryan and Leah had taken with my camera awhile back. I do not remember having seen them before, but they were so cute, I wanted to share them here even though they are from a few months ago . . .

Ryan and Mandy playing tug of war with one of her toys

Leah had brought her Golden Retriever, Mandy, inside (which she does periodically), and Mandy absolutely loves it! And we rather enjoy it also. :)

Aww . . . Mandy loves to be held and cuddled . . . even though she is a bit big to fit in our laps! She would probably lay for hours like this!

Another thing that was done after sewing lessons was to get some bread started. It is easy (and not nearly as time-consuming!) to make bread now since getting a bread machine! The machine is used mainly to mix the ingredients and knead the dough, though sometimes I let it bake the bread too. It kneads the dough so much better than what I have been able to do by hand, thus it produces a much lighter loaf which is nice! With using several different recipes and tweaking them a bit, I finally came up with a bread recipe that my family loves . . . and it is 100% whole wheat!

Leah was the one who took this photo, and I wish you could have heard her! She was in quite the teasing mood, and she ended up with several interesting photos! (including one upside down :) What fun sisters are!


And to close this post, a view from our window . . .


A female Cardinal